If you've visited Youtube after July 19, you may have noticed that there is suddenly far less Russian animation there than there used to be. A number of accounts have been removed, including those of arjlover, crazysister, hkristus, Humanophage, julia2night, pavlovich74, TheMotionBrigades, uncloser, and Wunder8484. From those, arjlover belonged to the eponimous website and julia2night belonged to Julia who was one of the most prolific translators; she translated or helped translate about 44 Russian cartoons to English and German. My own account was hit as well (though not deleted).
The History of the Perpetrator
The complaints all came from a company called Funtik Entertainment. I immediately tried to find out who they were, as I had never heard of them, and was curious about their motivations. For years, it seemed that nobody in Russia minded Russian cartoons being on Youtube and other similar sites - many of the directors openly encouraged it, even if their producers didn't, and posted their films up themselves, or gave other accounts such as pavlovich74 the permission to upload them. Perhaps this is because the internet was one of the few places for many films to reach an audience, because most of them weren't shown on television or theatres ("no money and an audience" being better than "no money and no audience"). The only complaint I had previously received about my Youtube account in 5 years on the site was from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., who had claimed to own the copyright to some Russian Dr. Seuss adaptations that had been made without their blessing or knowledge in the first place.
I found Funtik Entertainment mentioned in three Russian-language articles:
It seems that Funtik is not a studio, but a small company that holds the rights to the Funtik character owned by Valeriy Shulzhik, who wrote the screenplays for four late-1980s cartoons about a little pig with that name. 5 years ago, Funtik Entertainment was officially accused of copyright infringement for licensing the image of the character to commercial entities but neglecting to pay any of the proceeds to the art directors who had drawn him (similar to what Eduard Uspenskiy was doing at the same time, incidentally).
In 2005, Dina Goder wrote about how Funtik Entertainment somehow received a government contract to make a feature film about Funtik: "And now, having secured the promise of government support for a feature-length Funtik film, Shulzhik came to Pilot animation studio to order this film made (naturally, expecting a significant "kickback"), and after being refused, went with the same proposal to the young Peterburg studio, from which they were also sent packing. "How," Tatarskiy raged, "could they have promised him money, knowing that he cannot create any film at all, since he has no studio?".
Funtik Entertainment eventually struck a deal with Soyuzmultfilm and the first three short films were released last December, with a promise of more to come.
What Happened Last Week
On July 19, Funtik Entertainment sent out dozens, perhaps hundreds, or complaints to Youtube claiming ownership of many Russian animated films and ordering those film to be taken down.
They raised a complaint against myself as well; within the span of 16 minutes (6:30-6:46pm), I received notifications from Funtik Entertainment about 5 subtitled cartoons that I had uploaded: "Gena the Crocodile 2/2", "Gena the Crocodile 1/2", "Shareholders (1/3)", "Vinni Pukh", "Thumbelina (1/3)". As this was my second strike on Youtube (in 5 years), I decided to leave on my own terms rather than wait for a third.
On July 20, I received a PM from the former owner of the pavlovich74 account, and we compared notes. Ilya told me: "within 15 minutes or so I received close to 40 emails telling me that Funtik had layed [sic] claims to between 3 and 10 films on my site at a time/each email alert (that seems more like a software program doing the work rather than a real person making a logical decision on what is a copyright infringement and what is not)."
On my channel and Ilya's, Funtik only seem to have brought notices against the films of Soyuzmultfilm, ignoring films by other studios. It wasn't very methodical; probably they just typed "союзмультфильм" into the search box and deleted every video that came up. Due to their business relationship, it's conceivable that Funtik is friendly with someone at Soyuzmultfilm and did it on their behalf, rather clumsily making it seem like they were claiming to be the owners of the films.
Whatever the reason, it's not because of money. If Funtik or Soyuzmultfilm wanted money, Youtube allowed them to claim ownership of videos, then put advertisements on them and receive money every time they're viewed. This is exactly what fake copyright groups like QuizGroupMovies do on Youtube - they randomly claim to own hundreds of videos, put advertisements on them and collect money, counting on the fact that most people won't bother to fight the process. In fact, one of my videos that Funtik took down had already been "claimed" by MyVideoRights (MVR) and QuizGroupMovies, who put an advertisement on it and collected money from it (I myself have never collected a cent - this translation project is entirely noncommercial).
Ilya suggests that this might have something to do with the fallout from the recent success of Russian animators in attracting Putin's attention to their problems (a story which I've entirely missed covering here - I'm very sorry).
Translating works of art (like Russian animated films) is important because it allows people from different cultures to understand each other a little more. Because of copyright laws, doing unlicensed translations these days is like publishing samizdat in the Soviet period. But it will not be stopped. People want to talk.
It is very unfortunate that Funtik Entertainment's recent actions have caused dozens of Russian animated films to become inaccessible to English-speaking audiences, because they have deleted the only translations that existed of them.
I'd like to be able to show these films to others without getting harassed... and after all, the old model of television over antenna was that the channels were free to watch, and you "paid" by watching advertisements. I don't see why such a system couldn't be replicated with internet video... content creators allow anyone to share their content, while they get to choose the ad content that plays before it. In this way, they get money, and they get their audience to do the distribution for them, make translations into other languages, and so on. Basically, they don't have to do anything except rake in the cash, so this proposal would seem to be an attractive one for them. Otherwise this cat and mouse game will never end... as for "illegal video sharers", I think a lot of us would agree to proactively tell the rightsholders about any films that we upload to Youtube, and let them get the ad revenue from them, if it were then guaranteed that they wouldn't be taken down.
In any case, I will try to recover as much of what was lost as I can. A few months ago, I used the "Google2SRT" program to download as many subtitles as I could find for Russian animation on Youtube, including from julia2night (whose channel was deleted). In the weeks ahead, I'll try to make those translations available somewhere (until then, feel free to ask me for any specific ones).
As for where to host videos, it would be nice if there was a video sharing site in Spain that could be used, since in Spain, non-commercial media sharing is legal, but I haven't found one.
What is needed is to move everything to a website that allows streaming video with embedded (not hardcoded) subtitles. I'm currently exploring a few different options for where to reupload all of my videos as well as those from other channels that were lost such as julia2night's, including:
1. another Youtube account
4. BitLet decentralized video streaming - all files will need to be in .ogv format
5. TS Magic Player
Probably the final solution will be some combination; also, the last two options are presenting some technical challenges that I haven't yet figured out. But in any case, getting everything back will take some time.
Streaming torrents would probably be more long-lasting and safer from getting taken down, but there might be a problem with speed if there are too few people seeding.
If you have any other suggestions, please speak out!